Not Otherwise Specified is self-described as delivering "their own style of progressive rock with a modern aggressive punch." Ouch! The band also claims musical inspiration from Dream Theater, Genesis, Pink Floyd, and Spock's Beard...so let's step into the ring and find out if Not Otherwise Specified walks the talk...
The first serving from the prog buffet this week is a song called "Judgment" from the album of the same name. In typical latter day prog style, the song opens rather ominously and quickly sets a dark tone. The vocals are razor sharp, cutting through the layers of guitars and drums like a knife through hot butter. I pick up some top notes of Atomic Rooster and Opeth in this cut; Not Otherwise Specified has no doubt spent some time in the prog garden cultivating the soil and tending the roots. "Judgment" comes right at the listener, splitting the ear channels and daring you to pull the song apart. A true melange of prog sound--something for everyone.
A return trip to the buffet yields a second helping called "Another Way." The opening riff lends itself to a macabre Hammond B3 Organ--and then the drums and guitar roll in on a thunderclap to fill in the gaps. Not Otherwise Specified has a sound that is thought-provoking, deep, loud, and hard-hitting. The mood may swing toward the dark side, but Not Otherwise Specified has built its stage right in the middle of the prog garden, performing for all to hear.
Liner Notes...Not Otherwise Specified is Craig Kerley--period. Craig created the "Judgment" album from start to finish...composing each song; writing the lyrics, playing the instruments, doing the arranging, producing, mixing, and making the determination as to when each song is what he envisioned from the outset. I admit when I first gave Not Otherwise Specified a listen I never suspected a one-man operation...but as with Pekka Karjalainen with Stone Umbrella, there is only one evil genius behind the curtain. Craig has also done some work with Rodrigo San Martin and if you look at the Not Otherwise Specified Twitter page you will see six musicians...but all signs point to this work being done sans band members. Personally I am concerned less with who provided the input than I am with the resulting output--and Not Otherwise Specified nails it on the important stuff.
My final plateful from the buffet this week is a tune called "Dance on a Volcano." As implied by the title, this is a high energy piece. You feel the guitar and drums building to a climax right from the onset, while the keyboards keep a steady pulse in the background...as if to remind you of the fragility of life. More of the Opeth-like feel with the vocals, although the strength of the song leans toward Liquid Tension Experiment. Not Otherwise Specified has walked the width and breadth of the prog garden and it appears Craig is more comfortable in the neo/metal section. His writing is quite accomplished and the vocals hit a nerve when you focus and listen. The real strength of Not Otherwise Specified, though, is the way the music surrounds you from the outside and penetrates within.
My choice for your listening pleasure this week was a lot easier than my previous selections, a song called "Falling," from the band's second release. Staying true to form, this song leaps at you immediately, grabs you by the temples, and never lets you go. I sense a Dream Theater/Transatlantic vibe here; Not Otherwise Specified once again dabbles with throwing superior sounds into a Hamilton Beach blender and hitting the puree button...the result is a delicious blend of so many mouth-watering parts, that--while great in their own right--are taken to a level extraordinaire in the final concoction. Learn more about Not Otherwise Specified at http://nosband.com/ and try to pick Craig out of the line up on their Twitter page, which you can follow at @NOSpecified
OK fellow progheads, another week of living the dream is in the books. Not Otherwise Specified is a perfect addition to the prog garden simply because he/they do indeed walk the talk. The sound is inventive, crisp, and smacks you right between the eyes. One of the (many) remarkable things about progressive music is its ability to take on an existence of its own and grow. Not Otherwise Specified has breathed life into a sound that has its own pulse and continues to increase in strength. Each listen brings something new to light as the music gains momentum. So with another section of the prog garden in full bloom, I need to find more new growth...until next week...